Ondřej Hrab

* 1952

  • "The actor Ladislav Chudík was sent from Bratislava to speak at Wenceslas Square. But when he came to the Laterna Magika, where the Civic Forum was located, they sent him away, saying that another Slovak actor had already been arranged. Ladislav Chudík came to complain to the Theatre Institute because he knew the director. It was necessary to send him back to Laterna Magika because, of course, when Dr. Sova from the Hospital at the End of the City [his character in mentioned TV series – trans.] speaks to the people on Wenceslas Square, it means more than ten dissidents speaking. So, I took him back to the Laterna Magika and managed to fight my way to Václav Havel and Václav immediately understood what was at stake. Ladislav Chudík finally spoke in Wenceslas Square."

  • "In 1986, HaDivadlo managed to go to the Expo in Vancouver, where we all spent six months. It was a little bit of a sign of an easing, because the whole pavilion where we were animators was made by artists who were banned in Czechoslovakia at that time. Whether it was Michal Kocáb or Kurt Gebauer and others. Somehow they gave us permission to go and it was a great experience. Even though you worked there for half a year just for the food, it was still great."

  • "My mother [historian Libuše Hrabová] was kicked out of the university by the communists and could not teach. Fortunately, because she was among the first, she was able to stay at least in the university library. Her salary was, of course, half of what it was when she taught as an associate professor. At least she stayed in an adequate environment. Then someone complained that she was working in information services and meeting people. So, they put her in interlibrary loan so no one would see her, and that's how she spent 20 years before she could go back to the university. My father had a disability because we crashed our motorcycle, so they couldn't throw him out completely. They put him in a cabinet so he wouldn't see anyone. He spent normalization in an inferior place, and when he came back [in 1989], he reestablished the philosophy department."

  • "Only about five people were initiated into the arrival. But at the appointed time in Old Town Square The Living Theatre did not arrive. We were waiting in Nina Vangeli's apartment and it was clear that they had been arrested at the border, or some people thought I had made the whole thing up. Suddenly the phone rang, saying they were in Prague. We immediately went to see them and only at that moment we started calling people [audience]. We couldn't tell them where it was going to be, so they were meeting at various arranged places. It was only there that a few insiders directed them to the Na Ořechovce pub. People came from Bratislava, from Brno, they got on a train overnight and came. Ořechovka was full. About 200 people came."

  • "One of the biggest stupidities I ever heard was when George Bush came to Prague and told us that we had finally gotten democracy. We didn't get any democracy, we just took a step towards it. Democracy has to keep building, evolving and guarding. We must constantly question and protect it from the dangers that constantly threaten it."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 17.09.2021

    duration: 01:24:10
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 29.10.2021

    duration: 59:40
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Theatre explores democracy as in a laboratory

Ondřej Hrab through the lens of Japanese dancer and actor Min Tanaka, 1984
Ondřej Hrab through the lens of Japanese dancer and actor Min Tanaka, 1984
photo: Archiv Ondřeje Hraba

Ondřej Hrab was born on 26 July 1952 in Olomouc into the family of university teachers Libuše and Svatopluk Hrab. After the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops, the communists forbade his parents to teach. At the age of 16, he himself considered the invasion to be a lost hope. A year later he attended the funeral of Jan Palach. After graduating from high school, he was unable to choose a field of study of his own choice for cadre assessments reasons. In 1970 he entered the Prague University of Economics and Business (VŠE), where he got into sociology. His younger sister did not get into university at all during the normalisation period and married in Holland, where she could study. In 1976, he went to Poland with friends where he saw the initiation performance of Bread and Puppet troupe, and a year later, while visiting his sister, he saw the famous performance Einstein on the Beach by musician Philip Glass. He decided to bring similar performances, despite the dangers, to Prague. From the mid-1970s he was active in non-conformist cultural activities. From 1985 to 1987 he was the dramaturge and manager of the HaDivadlo theatre in Brno. He initiated and secretly organised conspiratorial performances by foreign artists The Living Theatre and dance performances by Min Tanaka. During the Velvet Revolution of 1989, he organised trips of well-known actors from the Theatre Institute to cities where they lectured about the fall of communism and the rise of democracy. In 1991, he founded the Archa Theatre, which he ran until 2023. He focused on documentary and social theatre.